What are the different types of sales opportunities?
The benefits of sales opportunity management
Nurturing sales opportunities through the funnel
Best practices for managing sales opportunities
For sales teams, working out the difference between genuine prospects and tire kickers is challenging. Without proper processes, businesses may waste resources on the wrong prospects, damage customer relationships and lose revenue.
Understanding and implementing effective sales opportunity management strategies will leave you with more time and energy for prospects most likely to buy. It will also streamline your sales processes and boost conversion rates.
In this article, we’ll look at what a sales opportunity is and how to identify sales opportunities in your pipeline and turn them into happy customers.
What is a sales opportunity?
A sales opportunity is a qualified prospect who’s highly likely to become a customer.
For some sales organizations, the term “sales opportunity” is loosely used to refer to a potential customer, regardless of sales intent or their place in the sales funnel. According to this generalized sales opportunity definition, every lead or prospect is a sales opportunity.
High-performing sales teams recognize that business sales opportunities are distinct from leads and prospects. Identifying opportunities as a separate group enables sales managers to focus their resources more effectively.
Think of leads, prospects and sales opportunities as different stages in the customer journey:
Leads. A lead is anyone who shows initial interest with minimal interaction.
Prospects. Once you’ve qualified a lead, they become a prospect – someone who’s demonstrated significant interest and is a good fit for your product or service.
Sales opportunities. The prospects most likely to convert and become paying customers are your sales opportunities.
For example, suppose you sell a SaaS product that helps accountants scale their business. Someone who visits your website and signs up for your newsletter becomes a viable lead. If you discover they’re an accountant with a company matching your buyer persona, they become a qualified prospect.
After you conduct further research and engage with the prospect, then they show they’re ready to make a purchase, they become a sales opportunity.
All sales opportunities share three common characteristics:
A pain point or job to be done
An interest in a solution
A good customer fit
Let’s look at these characteristics in more detail.
A pain point or job to be done
No matter your industry or the product or service you offer, your customers are looking to resolve a specific pain or complete a task.
In our example, an accountant struggling to grow might look for a solution like yours. Similarly, a sales manager dealing with disorganized customer data and inefficient sales processes can solve that pain point with the best CRM.
The sales manager may not have a pain point, but may want to track sales performance and whether or not his team is set to hit quota. Sales forecasting software can fulfill this job to be done (JTBD) by creating relevant reports.
One way to discover your prospects’ pain points or JTBD is to talk to them. Contact your potential customers and ask them about their challenges and goals. You’ll learn whether they’re looking for a solution to a painful situation, need to fulfill an objective or are just browsing.
People face a variety of pain points and challenges but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll pay for a solution. Distinguish leads from opportunities by finding out if they’re motivated to address that pain.
For example, an accountant whose business isn’t growing might be happy with where the organization is and think it’s better to leave things as they are due to personal reasons.
A prospect who wants to address their pain point and is researching and comparing their different options is more likely to purchase when they find the right solution.
Good customer fit
Are the customer and your solution a good match? For example, someone may be hungry (a pain point) and looking for a tasty meal (interest in a solution) but this doesn’t mean that any dish will do.
There’s a difference between a fast food chain burger and a fillet steak and your choice will change depending on the occasion, your budget and how long you’re willing to wait.
Your accounting solution won’t suit every client. The best software for a small startup might be unviable for a large enterprise.
With a clearly defined ideal customer profile (ICP), you can quickly identify sales opportunities to get the best value out of your solution.
What are the different types of sales opportunities?
Once you know what a good sales opportunity is, the next step is to find more.
Categorizing these opportunities will help sales professionals tailor their strategy to each opportunity. Types of sales opportunities include:
The most obvious place to look for sales opportunities is within your existing sales pipeline. Which leads have the pain points, interest and customer fit necessary for sales opportunities?
You can also use the same criteria to find new target markets. You might find a previously untapped demographic with the relevant pain point, interest and customer fit.
For example, if you’re primarily serving the US market, you might find greater demand in the European market.
Often, the best sales opportunities aren’t new leads but existing customers. Use upselling and cross-selling to offer additional relevant solutions and increase the customer lifetime value (LTV).
For example, customers for a SaaS product who’ve already seen the benefits of the standard plan might upgrade to a higher tier, while an e-commerce platform could recommend relevant complementary products to its best customers.
Existing customers can also introduce you to fresh direct sales opportunities by recommending your product to their network. While word of mouth can happen organically, you can increase it with a referral program that actively encourages and rewards customers who send friends and colleagues your way.
Sales reps are busier than ever, dealing with a wide range of tasks. According to Pipedrive’s State of Sales and Marketing, only 54% of respondents spend most of their day selling.
Which of the following tasks do you spend most of your day working on?
In this environment, sales teams can’t afford to waste time on leads that will never close. A sales opportunity management process enables you to move those opportunities through the pipeline more effectively and opens up a range of benefits:
Improved sales efficiency. Separating sales opportunities from other leads enables your sales team to focus on leads with the highest conversion potential. Reducing the time and resources you spend on low-probability leads reduces your customer acquisition cost (CAC) and increases your sales returns.
Enhanced customer relationships. Allocating more time to your best opportunities means you get to know them better. You’ll understand their pain points, challenges, goals and how your solution can serve them, allowing you to personalize your service and increase your conversion rate.
Accurate sales forecasting. When you properly handle your sales opportunities, predicting sales trends, potential revenue and growth trajectories becomes easier. For example, you can use historical data to forecast which products might see increased demand in the upcoming quarter, allowing for better inventory management.
Refined sales and marketing processes. As you learn more about your sales opportunities and what makes them tick, use those insights to improve your marketing and sales strategies. For example, a certain customer segment might stall at the proposal stage. Use this data to refine the proposal process.
Increased revenue and growth. Effective sales opportunity management directly correlates with increased sales. The better you identify and nurture your sales opportunities, the more revenue you’ll bring in. Nurturing and converting more of the existing sales opportunities leads to an uptick in your bottom line.
Effective sales opportunity management aligns your sales processes with customer needs, ensuring you’re using your resources properly and creating an environment for sales reps and customers to thrive. Investing in sales opportunity management is important for businesses aiming for longevity and success.
Nurturing sales opportunities through the funnel
Every sales opportunity goes through a journey called a funnel. This funnel represents a potential customer’s various stages, from the initial awareness of a product or service to the final purchase decision.
Nurturing potential sales prospects throughout this funnel is crucial to ensure a smooth transition between sales opportunity stages and maximize conversions.
Here’s how to best nurture these opportunities.
The funnel’s opening is where potential customers become aware of your company’s products or services, often without a clear purchase intent.
It’s difficult to tell genuine sales opportunities from general leads at this early stage so your nurturing strategies should be about laying a solid foundation for the future.
Use content marketing, from blog posts to webinars, to offer valuable information addressing your audience’s biggest pain points and show them how you can help. Social media can also be useful to share your content and engage with leads.
Potential customers are interested in your offerings and seek more specific information. Interest is a key criterion for sales opportunities so use this stage to build relationships and nurture their curiosity.
Email marketing is a great way to provide tailored content that answers specific questions or concerns.
You can also use a sales demo or interactive videos to showcase the benefits of your product or service.
Prospects are now considering your solution, among others, comparing features, benefits and pricing. Help them by providing the details they need to decide, such as comparison charts and product data sheets.
Step up the engagement with one-to-one personalized outreach, address the prospect’s specific concerns and guide them toward a favorable decision.
You could offer a free trial or sample so they can experience your product firsthand.
By this stage, prospects are showing intent to buy and you can now class them as sales opportunities. Even though they will likely make a purchase, they might still need a final nudge.
A limited-time discount or another incentive could seal the deal. You can also ease last-minute concerns through a live chat on your website or a phone call to answer any final questions.
Your sales opportunity is now ready to become a paying customer. This stage is more about optimizing the customer experience than nurturing. Purchasing should be intuitive and simple, with minimal steps and clear instructions.
If the customer has any issues, ensure that assistance is available. Whether through chatbots, helplines or email support, customers should be able to get the help they need without jumping through hoops.
After the sale, the focus shifts to retaining the customer and fostering loyalty. You’ll get the most out of the sales opportunity by helping the customer get the best results with your solution.
A solid onboarding process, with tutorials and user-friendly guides, will get your customer off to the best start. Ask for the customer’s feedback and act on it, showing customers that their opinions matter.
Good CRM software comes with integrations for your other marketing and sales tools, saving time and enabling your team to collaborate effectively.
Using CRM for opportunity management allows a salesperson to instantly access the history of the opportunity and all their interactions with your company, which enables more personalized and informed outreach.
CRMs like Pipedrive have powerful workflow automation features so you can automate repetitive sales activities and manage your opportunities even more effectively.
We’ve seen how identifying your sales opportunities helps you focus on the prospects most likely to close, but even within this group, it’s important to recognize that not all opportunities are equal.
Some sales opportunities are worth more than others. Certain opportunities may better align with your goals, such as attracting a well-known name to build brand awareness.
You might prioritize a lead from a large enterprise over a smaller business due to potential deal size, even if the smaller lead is further along in the sales funnel.
Segment opportunities based on potential deal size, likelihood of closure and alignment with your ideal customer profile. Developing a scoring system or a way to rank opportunities allows you to allocate resources to the highest-ranking opportunities.
An advantage of a CRM system and opportunity management software is that it collects all your sales data in one central location, which you can use to make smarter decisions.
Key sales metrics, such as conversion rates, average deal size and sales cycle length, provide a granular view of sales performance and allow you to refine your sales opportunity management.
Use your CRM’s insights and reports features to analyze your sales opportunities and identify patterns. For example, if the data indicates that a particular product feature resonates strongly with sales opportunities, highlight it in pitches to similar prospects.
Following up with sales opportunities is a delicate balance between persistence and providing value. It’s crucial to remain top-of-mind while offering something relevant with every interaction with the client.
Email marketing software helps you automate follow-ups and stay in regular contact with your sales opportunities. However, it’s essential to go beyond generic email blasts. Instead, use your CRM to send relevant, highly personalized follow-ups based on the opportunity and their previous interactions.
For example, after presenting a product demo, follow up with a case study that showcases real-world benefits. If they’ve previously mentioned a specific pain point, highlight your product’s unique features that address that challenge.
Demonstrating an understanding of their needs and positioning your product as the solution significantly enhances the chances of conversion.
Identifying and nurturing your best sale opportunities helps you allocate your resources to prospects most likely to become customers. Those customers can lead to additional sales opportunities, either within the same account or by referring similar prospects to you.
Understanding your sales opportunities will allow you to see your marketing and sales processes through their eyes and help you create a process that consistently brings in high-quality customers.
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